Roy Church 3

October 2012

This page is dedicated to the writings of Roy Church--this is the page
three, to go to the story please click the headings

More Highway Tales from Yesteryear

Continental Snooker

Along the Way

Transport in Assam

Weekend Trip

Another amusing memory for which we have to thank Roy

January 6 2013

More Highway Tales from Yesteryear.

Dick Scott’s response to my early Assam motoring memories puts me in mind of other motoring exploits I had forgotten.

Anyone who started their tea career under the guidance of Swynerton Dyer (“Swyn”) will recognise the characteristics of Swyn’s forthright management style. Swyn had been released from tea to join the Army and after the North African campaign his service had been extended to having to cope with the Palestine problem, in particular to deal with the Stern Gang’s activities. He was finally demobbed as a Major returning to tea where he towered over his colleagues in all senses of the word.

I used the estate jeep occasionally with a driver as circumstances arose when I needed to urgently to collect some machinery parts from Doom Dooma rail station.

One afternoon my office boy came running into the factory and said that the Burra Sahib wished to see me in his office - now.

On arrival Swyn told me to sit down while he and the Head Clerk discussed how we might get various machinery parts for the Tippuk factory. It soon became increasingly clear that the only option was for me to drive to Doom Dooma in the jeep and collect the goods.

Swyn explained it was strictly forbidden for Assistants to drive company jeeps. Sywn stressed to me to have regard to the fact that if anything went wrong it would be him that had to make the necessary explanation to the Calcutta agents.

“Nonetheless” said Swyn “it will be you getting the sack”

“You have been driving long enough not to make an arse of yourself. If you are involved in an incident immediately get out of the jeep, grab the culprit and cuff him about the head” “Establish that the other driver is at fault which is why you are hitting him. The harder you hit him the more likely the crowd will believe you are in the right”

All went well and there was no outcome only to establish what became well known in Army Terms as ‘Swyn’s First Immediate Action’.

In fact ‘Swyn’s I.A.’ became common practice until a later ex-Delhi posted Superintendent of Police persuaded the ABITA that the days of the Wild West were over.

I think many of my driving skills were probably acquired during my boyhood snatching free rides on the dodgem cars at Billy Butlin’s Skeness funfair.

Some places in Assam were however infamous as traffic bottlenecks one of which was Mankotta Road out of Dibrugarh Town. Like most level crossings discipline was totally absent, traffic found any available space long before the train arrived with the resulting chaos when the gates were eventually opened. Looking at the crush of traffic one would have thought we might be there for ever but somehow it resolved itself, as only it could in India.

In 1964 I returned from U.K. leave with my wife, Eileen and we were posted to Jamirah T.E. just south of Dibrugarh. Jamirah was on the banks of the Bramaphutra and we spent the early part of our stay exploring the river which was about 12 miles wide at that point.

It was not long however before Dick Scott was on the phone to the Bheating estate next door (incredibly Jamirah had no phone connection in 1964). He wanted us to go up to Daisajan  where he had been posted while I had been on U.K. leave. Eileen had the difficult choice of us staying at a bachelor’s bungalow or a trip to Daisajan and back to Jamirah in my Fiat.

She chose the road journey and we arrived at Daisajan as the sun was setting after a trouble free journey. “Trouble free” included having to frequently ‘climb off’ the single track Highway 37 to allow the south going traffic precedence. It was in any event a long journey and I cheered Eileen explaining that on the return journey we would have right of way to stay on the built up part of the highway.

Eventually we set off for Jamirah and had soon passed through Makum and Tinsukia. We were making good time and were soon approaching Panitola at approx. 50 m.p.h. All of a sudden I had to do an emergency stop: In the middle of the road was a 5 ton heap of coal deposited, one assumed, by a broken down lorry. The lorry had been taken away. The only light was from a candle in a brown paper bag illuminating a very frightened juggali who descended from atop the coal heap asking plaintively for forgiveness.

We continued back to Jamirah - more sedately.

 5.1.13 R.C.

November 27 2012

Another amusing story from Roy who says  the biggest problem I now have is to find eight players


India is, I believe, reputed to be the birthplace of Snooker.

Continental snooker is a gambling offshoot of snooker, once played to my knowledge in almost every planter's club from Ledo to the Snake Pit at the Darjeeling Club.

Managers tried to discourage Continental playing 1 for the quantities of alcohol consumed during games and 2 the subsequent rowdiness.  Junior Assistants were at the best of times impecunious and needed no encouragement to find yet another gambling avenue.

I will try and set out the ‘rules:'-

Number of players: not more than 8 not fewer than 4.

Balls are placed in the triangle six colours and enough reds to fill the triangle. Triangle points to baulk from pink spot with all the reds down the baulk sides of the triangle. Surplus reds are not used.

A number of "tickets". Each ticket has a colour written on it and the tickets are hidden in some way. If there are more than 6 players then the appropriate number of tickets are added. I.e. 7 players; add one ticket with the word "Blank" written on it, 8 players add  two blank tickets etc. etc.

Stake: Decide the stake before the game starts. I suggest Rs. 50 minimum. Collect kitty at start of game.

Order of play: it is usual to use first or second names in alphabetical order.

From the start the aim of each player is to pot a red which entitles the player to take a ticket which he scrutinises and secretes about his person. When a red or colour is potted it stays out of play regardless as to the legality as to how it was potted.

Like snooker having potted a red one is required to go for a colour, any colour. If you pot the ball for which you have the ticket on a legal snooker shot you win the kitty. If you have potted someone else's colour it becomes impossible for him to win (but he does not let on.)

Anyone playing a foul pays the stake again into the kitty.

Fouls include 1 Playing out of turn (quite common in the heat of play).

2.Potting a colour while supposed to be going for a red.

3.Potting a red while supposed to be going for a colour.

4. Missing.

5. In off

An example scenario:

White ball starts from green spot.

Player A "smashes" the balls set up from the triangle.

One red is pocketed. Picks up ticket which is the blank.

Secretes ticket.

Player A pots blue which does not go in but hovers on the edge of the pocket.

Player B goes for blue (despite wanting red to get his ticket) but misses - pays fine.

Player C goes for red and draws ticket which is black - pots blue which as with all balls stays down howeverso potted.

And so the game continues till a player pots his ticket on a legal pot.

As players become more experienced the game becomes very much a skill of bluffing other players into believing which ball is whose. Players who draw blanks cannot win but if they clear the table on their turn the game is restarted with an additional kitty.

"Caselaw"at Doom Dooma Old Club laid down that an earth tremor is not a foul

Have fun

Roy Church

November 20 2012

  Roy has been suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis for several months and whilst in considerable discomfort has penned these memories for us to enjoy-we wish him well and hopes he  makes a speedy recovery


Dear David,

I am pleased to report that  my recent dice with Rheumatoid arthritis appears to be passing and I am beginning to feel more like a human being again. Even my wife, a nurse of some 50 years, expressed concern; for such people to show concern does impress upon me the fragility of life. Below a few "testing" times from my life to which you may like to add to Koi Hai despite their personal Nature.


                                   ALONG THE WAY

                                By Roy Church

Inevitably, I suppose, as one grows older it becomes increasingly apparent that the human body works less efficiently. Is this, one might ponder, because of past lifestyle? A payback for some of the abuse one inevitably subjected one's constitution to?

My first recollection of a "serious" turn of events was when as a pre-school boy I contracted double pneumonia. I was hospitalised in the small bedroom over the kitchen at Fields Farm, Sapcote in leicestershire because it was the warmest room in the house. I recall hushed conversations between my Mother and the local Doctor. It was pre-National Health Service. Drugs, such as there were, were in short supply and the services of the Doctor had to be paid for from my Mother's meagre funds.

I was kept in bed for several weeks in an all pervading atmosphere of ‘Vic' and Friars Balsam. Nights the bedroom was lit only by a flickering paraffin Kelly Lamp.

After what seemed a long time my Mother organised a birthday party inviting several of my fellow pupils from St. Cecilia Convent in Hinkley. Thanks largely to Mother's access to the farm dairy she produced a great spread of cakes, jellies and the like rarely seen during WWII because of rationing or shortages.

After tea we children were allowed to play in the rick yard where we noisily jumped from rick to rick. It was only at the time when parents were collecting their offspring that one of my friends was found to be missing. A short search soon revealed that he had fallen between two hay stacks and, covered in hayseeds, was soon hauled out.

Because my Mother was soon fully occupied running a hotel in Skegness my infant school days were somewhat haphazard such that by the time I started prep' school I had already attended 5 schools. My last schooling before formal prep' school had been a period of private tuition at Chapel Point, a wild piece of Lincolnshire beach and sand dunes some 7 miles to the North of Skegness where a Ukrainian Jew by the name of Edgar Lyman had set up a private school centred in an isolated Victorian house atop the sand dunes appropriately called the Beacon. It was a very cold house during the winter and we 7 pupils spent a good deal of our time combing the beach for flotsam, firewood and sea coal which was the Beacon's only source of heating. During the winter we usually wore our coats during lessons. Lyman's menu regularly included potato and rabbit stew. The potatoes were abundant in a field immediately behind the Sea Wall and the rabbits were everywhere in the sand dunes. Skinning and gutting rabbits was very much a compulsory part of our curriculum.

Whilst the Beacon's site on top of the sand dunes was "challenging", in the winter with NE storms blowing the salt off the beach into our eyes, the summer was superb. Lyman put our beach time down as "swimming" and left us very much to get on with it. I recall most of us soon learned to swim albeit we spent much time diving off the outfall to huge diesel pumps that kept the agricultural hinterland in intensive arable production. Diving off or into the outfall when the tide was falling was fine but after one or two narrow escapes we soon recognised the danger and avoided playing there when the tide was rising.

The sand hills were covered with marram grass and clumps of orange berried sea thorn bushes. The dunes were as much as 40' high after long winter storms and left behind long high sand cliffs which we used to slide down holding on to a root of sea thorn. Several times one or other of us had to be dug out.

During the summer holidays Mother and I made a long road trip in a borrowed Ford Prefect to Norwich to be interviewed by the headmaster and to equip me with school uniform.  

I got the feeling that Taverham Hall was going to be very different; though not necessarily better.

I was right.

To run a boarding school of 60 boys there inevitably had to be rules although it seemed to me that there were rules for everything:- what time one went to bed, what time one had to get up, wash. clean teeth, make beds, when certain areas were in or out of bounds I was almost daily sent to see the Headmaster, J. S. Peel after evening prayers to explain to him how I had managed to upset yet another member of his long suffering staff by disregarding the rules. As Peel's patience ran out so the number of disciplinary beatings I received increased. I clearly took some training and was regarded by both colleague pupils and staff as "wild."

My sanctuary was either the nearby River Wensum or Snake Woods. I was decidedly better at hiding than the staff were at searching

Taverham Hall was an impressive Queen Anne style country residence and was surrounded by several let farms situate from Costessey to Morton-on- the Hill. Much of modern day Costessey was even in the 1940's earmarked for development. The Hall overlooked the River Wensum. The formal areas of the Hall were gardens in which stood massive ancient Wellingtonia and Lebanon Cedar.

Extraordinarily there seemed to be no school rules about climbing trees. Some trees were easy to climb and were popular among the boys who developed the practice of carving initials in the very top of the trees. In later years as the trees aged I often wondered to what extent wind damage appeared because of the activity of small boys with pen knives carving their initials. I recall many occasions watching people searching for me as I sat high above them in The boughs of a Wellingtonia watching them. Why did they never look up I often wondered. Inevitably I eventually fell out of a Wellingtonia near the tennis court. I had discovered that football boots gave one purchase on the soft bark of Wellingtonia. Such practice unfortunately left tell-tale football boot stud marks in the soft bark and I was soon implicated following an inspection of football boots.

There was a hollow tree in Snake Woods near Ghost Hill and another overlooking the Ringland Lane. It was possible (with difficulty) to climb into both these trees and climb some 10' to emerge amongst the foliage of the upper branches. I recall several occasions when my firiends got stuck in the hollow butt necesiting on one occasion having to get a Master to help extricate the boy. We usually had at least one graduate teaching assistant who owed us a favour.

During WWII the hall had been taken over by the military as evidenced by several Nissen huts situate along the main drive to Taverham village. In Snake Wood was an abandoned NAAFI. All the disused huts were scavenged by the boys to source material to make slit trench dens. Pot-bellied stoves, sheets of disguarded corrugated iron, chimneys and empty ammo boxes. The dens were supposedly inspected by junior masters to theoretically ensure that there were no accidents from dens collapsing. In reality most of the dens were so well hidden that only a small % were ever discovered.

The school swimming pool situate next to the kitchen garden was readied during the first weeks of the summer term. It had no heating and only a very rudimentary filtration system that was guaranteed to make one's eyes run if one stayed in for more than five minutes. I was among the hardier swimmers which probably reflects that fact that I swam regularly in the Skegness open air pool during the Easter holidays. It was noticeable that the thinner built boys were always amongst the last to learn to swim. The fact was that they could not put up with the ice cold water. There were no changing rooms; boys changed in the nearby rose garden and after swimming ran the full length of the kitchen garden and back to re-invigorate one's circulation

One of the junior masters used to round up all those who could swim and lead a party down to the nearby Wensum. Swimming in the weeds of the Wensum was initially quite frightening but the biggest hazard was getting one's feet cut by disguarded freshwater mussel shells.

Not content with supervised sorties to the river to swim it was common practice to abscond from the dormitory on warm summer evenings after lights out when the biggest problem was the noisy attention given to us by an ancient donkey kept by the Peels'. It was soon discovered however that a few tit-bits from the kitchen was the price of the donkey's silence' and our passport down to the river. Meanwhile there was always the risk that a master came checking on dormitories often to find very few of the boys in bed.

My Stepfather brought me up in the belief that hard work never hurt anyone. He had me collecting eggs and "mucking out" pigsties from an early age and as I grew I helped with feeding pigs. It was a regular event to be carrying two buckets of swill only to be shoved off my feet by young porkers trying to get their heads in the trough.

During harvest I was allowed to drive the tractor pulling a 4 wheeled horse dray to which a crude tractor drawbar had been fitted by the local blacksmith. Stepfather forked up the sheaves and I drove very sedately down the cornfield till told to "woah". The tractor was an American built Ford Standard which was a pretty basic machine; handle start and combined clutch and transmission brake. It had steel "spud" wheels. I had a ‘near squeak' when foolishly trying to singlehandedly couple up the dray one day when the tractor miraculously stalled - another foot backwards and I would have been killed

Apart from twice breaking my collarbone on the rugby field twice school was relatively accident free. In my early days of commuting to school from Old School House I suffered the inevitable crash or two on the Grove Lane cycle track. The pain was usually relieved by a visit to a very attractive young trainee Nurse Bradey at the School Sanitorium

The Taverham Hall cook Mrs. Clayton used to buy jam in 14 lb catering tins. The jam was tasteless and a violet green. I never came to any conclusion what flavour it was supposed to be. Mrs. Clayton had acquired an American made tin opener which opened the tin in one smooth operation. I quickly spotted several tin lids in the kitchen waste tub and when, as often, I was banned from lessons I would amuse myself throwing the lids skyward from whence they made an erratic return to earth burying themselves in the lawns round the school.

One day as I amused myself I saw Mr. Peel purposefully walking up to the stable block where he garaged his car. Next I knew was an agitated Headmaster striding down towards me.

"Come with me" he commanded and I followed him up to his garage where his car was protruding from the garage and quite plainly the canvass roof had received a direct hit from a tin lid which was now buried deeply into the back seat. That evening I received another "4 "

Most of my Army career I spent training either recruits or NCO's. I spent some time testing weapons during which time we had a fatality which necessitated me and my colleagues being returned to base having re-signed the Secrets Act. There were only 6 of us on the experimental weapons; I could not help thinking the odds were getting too high and I was glad to be returned to the Lincoln Depot. Extraordinarily my next job was testing boots for which I was to pay the cost in later life with chronic arthritis

This part was first shown on February 28 2012


The Royal Lincolnshire Regiment (The Tenth of Foot) had its training depot at Sobraon Barracks in Burton Road on the northern outskirts of Lincoln in 1959. Each four weeks an intake of National Servicemen would arrive for their ten weeks basic training. In addition there was a trickle of Regular Army recruit volunteers who were integrated into the intakes at the depot. From the mid-fifties the Lincoln depot had also contracted to train members of the Veterinary Corps who were stationed nearby at Melton Mowbray. Among the 'vets' were National Servicemen who tended to be conscriptees with some veterinary background but also occasionally a Regular Army volunteer seeking to make a career in the 'vets'.

Savvi was such a Regular Army volunteer for the 'vets' and I first met him at Sobraon Barracks. He was a Fijian. Aged about 18 he was very dark skinned, no more than 5' 4" but built like the proverbial brick 'whatsit'. He was a keen rugby player and looked every inch a prop forward.

When Savvi first arrived direct from Fiji at the barracks he was not under my care being sent to another training platoon. He spoke only French and initially understood very little English. He had a wide, wonderfully disarming smile but despite which he was "backsqadded" twice and eventually finished up in my training platoon. Having just had my 18th birthday. I had been given the rank of corporal and the task of training recruits while I waited to go to the Regular Commission Board. I spoke a little "O" level schoolboy French and I was lucky to have a 'vet' graduate recruit in the platoon by the name of Rush who spoke French fluently. Most of my other 'squaddies' came from the rural hinterland of Lincolnshire and spoke English with a strong local accent; it was hardly surprising in the circumstances that Savvi had not made much progress in learning the language.

At the start of the 10 week training my platoon commander took me to one side and explained that he was relying on me to make a special effort to get Savvi through his 10 weeks basic training. Thereafter the other platoon N.C.O.'s regarded Savvi and his problems as my particular concern.

Savvi was an extraordinary character: He was the son of a Fijian prince by a "subordinate" wife - his family were clearly both wealthy and influential in his distant homeland. He was, what to-day would be immediately recognised as a pacifist. He had a natural love of animals. He had obviously been used to a very relaxed lifestyle involving many servants and found great difficulty in coping with orders being suddenly shouted at him. In the barrack room he was always friendly and helpful. His broad smile to a great extent overcame his language difficulty with the result that he was always very popular among the men of the platoon.

When the training platoon was allotted to me into which Savvi was backsquadded I put Savvi into a bed space next to Rush, the 'vet' graduate who spoke French and also ensured that both of them were close to the end of the barrack room where I and four other N.C.O.'s slept.

Because Savvi had been backsqadded twice he had already spent nearly 6 months in the barracks before he came to my platoon. His kit was immaculate and he had learned to obey drill commands (even though he did not necessarily understand precisely what the words of any order were - [who did!]). His dark skin and characteristic Fijian outline made him easily recognisable by many of the depot senior N.C.O.'s and as a result he was often "called out" where other recruits might have remained anonymous.

The initial weeks of training went well. Rush and I spent considerable time helping Savvi with his English and even Savvi's fellow recruits, who had probably struggled through a secondary modern education with no foreign language, joined the spirit of Savvi's "conversion".

Some years later I discovered that when members of that platoon, who had been subsequently posted to the Malayan Communist terrorist campaign, required passwords in the jungle,(which would not be understood by the C.T.'s) they often successfully used French phrases they had learned from Savvi.

I soon found that Savvi's attachment to animals was in fact quite extraordinary. On one occasion he was part of a night-time guard to the barracks when I was guard commander. The guard had to patrol the front of the barracks along the outside of the massive keep and 12' high walls that faced Burton Road. Savvi had the watch between midnight and 0200 hrs. Shortly after he had been posted I went out to check he knew his duties and to see that all was well. Savvi was pacing up and down outside the depot main gate and as I approached he came smartly to attention and, there, beside him, was a (presumably) stray lurcher, which on Savvi's quiet command obediently sat beside Savvi's left boot. When Savvi did his final watch between 0600 hrs. and 0700 hrs. it was there again - clearly 'at one ' with its temporary master.

While Savvi may have had an extraordinary relationship with animals; when it came to things mechanical, especially firearms, he was plainly not in his element. He not only did not understand things mechanical but had an obvious and extreme fear of firearms. To many of his fellow recruits who had been brought up in the countryside with ancient un-licensed shotguns etc., Savvi's fear was inexplicable. Nonetheless, they all recognised Savvi's genuine fear.

Whenever there were rifle inspections, Savvi's rifle was always wonderfully clean and polished on the outside but the barrel almost always failed inspection because Savvi had some inexplicable fear that "'pulling through' the barrel might set it off".

He somehow coped on the rifle range although he was a truly hopeless shot and we never managed to get him to fire a group tight enough to be able to zero his rifle. Bearing in mind his history of backsqadding and the fact that he was joining the 'vets' to be a dog handler; I persuaded the platoon commander to overlook Savvi's complete lack of marksmanship.

Whilst firing a rifle was trial enough for Savvi; when it came to firing 'bursts' from a Bren light machine gun, he simply closed his eyes tight shut while he squeezed the trigger firing one long burst which sprayed the whole of the target area including hitting adjoining targets.

Towards the end of an infantryman's basic training an increasing amount of time is spent on firing ranges. Because Savvi had been backsqadded he had never previously reached this part of his training.

Training now reached the operation of the Sten gun.

In the course of the preliminary instruction on the Sten recruits learned that it was a weapon which had been hurriedly developed for WWII. It was primarily both cheap but also notoriously unreliable.

Soon we reached the point where recruits were to fire the weapon on a thirty yard range. At Sobraon Barracks the range consisted of the usual 30' high brick butt with sandbank in front on which a 'Figure 11' target was set up. There were two raised firing points with trenches to the rear and behind these a small building where arms and ammunition could be stored.

As it was the first time recruits had fired the weapon, one N.C.O. took charge of each firing point so that close supervision could be maintained. Those recruits not on the firing point were made to stand in the weapon pits just behind the firing points and the platoon commander issued the necessary orders from the hut to the rear.

The firing detail was to load the Sten with a magazine of 25 rounds. On command the safety catch was to be put to the "single shot" position and each recruit would fire five single rounds at the target. Then, when ordered to fire "rapid", the remaining 20 rounds were fired in short bursts.

Savvi arrived at my firing point clearly in a state of extreme nervousness. The chatter from his fellow recruits in the weapon pit behind him had died down to total silence. This only increased the tension and Savvi's fear.

I quietly ordered him to pick up the Sten which lay on the ground at his feet and load the magazine. His hands were shaking so much that I had to knock home the magazine. I cocked the weapon for him. Next the other firing point fired its detail. I quietly explained to him that he should press the safety catch over to "single shot" which he managed to do. I got him to bring the weapon up to the shoulder and told him to gently squeeze the trigger. Despite the cold autumn day, the sweat was pouring down Savvi's face and he just could not bring himself to pull the trigger. I quietly got him to re-apply the safety catch, put the weapon down and relax. After a minute we tried again. This time he pulled the trigger.

Unfortunately, the weapon malfunctioned; firing continuous rather than single shot. As the 25 rounds whizzed down the range Savvi turned round towards me in total panic with the Sten shouting "What do I do?" 9 mm bullets sprayed everywhere. The remainder of the recruits had hurriedly disappeared from view into the weapon pit. Bits of asbestos roofing flew off the building behind the firing point where the platoon commander now cowered in the corner of the building. I had somehow anticipated Savvi's move and had fortunately moved round to the other side of him - out of harms way.

In the stunned silence that followed the 25 round continuous burst the platoon commander said in a rather shaky voice "Thank you Savvi, I think that will be enough"!

Some time later in the day the platoon commander, platoon sergeant and I had a short conference when we decided to endorse Savvi's training log "Fired sub-machine gun adequately for Veterinary Corps purposes". It seemed the best course of action - in everyone's interest.

The platoon's training neared its end. There was much preparation for the Passing Out Parade.

Recruits had reached the required standard of dress and drill whereby they were allowed out into the city of Lincoln when off-duty. Savvi became very popular with his fellow recruits, was much sought after by local girls at regimental dances and also developed a great liking for English beer making the Wagon and Horses his favourite retreat.

The platoon commander and my fellow N.C.O.'s began to be quite confident that we would succeed to get Savvi 'passed out' on this occasion.

There was but one problem. The remaining weapon training included gaining competency with the Mills 36 Anti-personnel Grenade. The '36' is in effect a hollow lump of cast iron filled with gunpowder, set off by a 4 second fuse. The fuse is ignited by a percussion cap detonated by a piece of metal rod powered by a spring. When the grenade is thrown; the handle (hereto held by a safety pin) is released allowing the rod to detonate the fuse and four seconds later the grenade explodes in all directions.

"Classroom training" on Mills grenades is done with "Demonstration Purpose only" grenades from which the explosive has been removed. Recruits are taught how to clean the bombs, insert the fuses (priming) and given practice at throwing the grenades. To give confidence and to prove how simple it is to prime and throw grenades, recruits practiced priming grenades in total darkness and competitions were organised to enhance recruit's throwing accuracy. Mills grenades are roughly one and a half times the size of a cricket ball and weigh about three pounds.

Because of the unpredictable nature of the distribution of the shrapnel from '36' grenades when they explode, purpose-built grenade ranges have to be sited well away from occupied areas. In addition it is necessary to provide not only throwing pits but good protection for other range users.

The Regiment used a remote range situate in a secluded river valley near Bekenham on the Lincolnshire/Nottinghamshire border. The range comprised three pits about 6' deep, five foot wide and long enough to accommodate two soldiers. The pits were in a line and about 15 yards apart. From these pits grenades would be thrown. Some 10 yards to the rear there were three more pits about the same size. These pits were used to prime the live grenades. Overlooking all 6 pits was a 20' high tower built of double skinned corrugated iron from which the officer in charge could direct the whole operation. Recruits waiting their turn to throw sheltered behind a high bank some 50 yards to the rear of the tower. Steel helmets were always worn when on the grenade range.

When ordered, the men came forward one by one to the priming pits. On the way each collected two live grenades and two fuses from an N.C.O.. They went into the priming pits and, supervised by an N.C.O. in each pit, primed their grenades. At the next command they moved from the priming pits into the throwing pits which were again supervised by an N.C.O. in each pit. From there, as ordered, they would throw their grenades.

Commands were issued from the platoon commander high in the observation tower:- "Number one pit - prepare to throw - ready - throw - observe - take cover", "number two pit - prepare to throw - ready - throw . . . . ." etc etc..

On the command "prepare to throw" the thrower would stand up in the pit. On the command "ready" the thrower would remove the safety pin from the grenade, check visually that the pin had been completely removed and then the throwing arm would be extended as far back as possible waiting for the command to throw. On the command "throw" the grenade would be thrown down the range.

So went the theory:

Eventually it was Savvi's turn.

I was in charge of throwing pit number 1 to which Savvi headed.

He climbed down into the pit and was clearly very nervous. Soon the order "number one pit prepare to throw" came and Savvi stood up, immediately pulled the pin from his grenade without further order or pause and put his arm back in readiness to throw. The whites of his eyes stood out in his gentle but frightened face and he was clearly in a near state of terror. He dropped the grenade onto the throwing pit floor. The detonator on the fuse 'popped' and, as if in slow motion, I remember picking the grenade up and hurling it down the range. Savvi was slumped in the corner of the pit and plainly in a state that he was not going to be able to throw the second grenade. When the order came to throw the second grenade I threw it on the platoon commander's orders and Savvi just gave me a grateful look from the bottom of the pit. The platoon commander must have seen me throwing the grenade but nothing was said.

During the last week of the basic training the platoon had a celebratory evening in the Burton Road Waggon and Horses to which I was invited. Much beer was drunk. On the way back to the barracks I was passing the roundabout halfway down Burton Road, when, from the roundabout flowerbeds a figure suddenly sat bolt upright from a thereto prone position. It was Savvi who was full of beer and in excellent spirits. He shouted out in his broken English "We've done it Corp - I shall be out of here at last" I exhorted him to come out of the flowerbed and offered to get him past the guardroom provost but he just sat there grinning.

The last time I saw Savvi was on his passing out parade. His drill performance was without fault and his turnout immaculate which then included his much prized Veterinary Corps cap badge.

In to-days turbulent politics of Fiji I often what became of my recruit who was so problematic but friendly. 

This part was first shown on  February 28 2012

                            SEAN KINSELLA.

My worst recruit, looking back today, was undoubtedly Sean Kinsella.

He was a soft spoken Irishman who made no secret of his Republican outlook. He was not a particularly bright recruit and my first meeting with him was when he was 'back squadded' into my platoon. (i.e. he had failed to achieve the necessary standard to pass out with his original platoon).

As well as being almost permanently on "Jankers" (a form of punishment directed by the Company Commander) Sean committed a long list of misdemeanours (mostly AWOL) which resulted in him eventually being given 14 days detention by the Company Commander.

Towards the end of his imprisonment term the provost sergeant, totally against Standing Orders, used to leave Kinsella to exercise himself in the guardroom cell yard. The yard exit door was locked and Kinsella inside.

The yard was surrounded by a 12' high wall on the top of which had set in concrete broken glass and there was no record of anyone ever having succeeded in breaking out.

One day when the provost sergeant went out to relock Kinsella in his cell. Kinsella had disappeared.

He was shortly recaptured in a well known brothel at the back of the Bell Hotel in Nottingham by the Chilwell Military Police and returned in handcuffs to Sobraon Barracks.

The CO decided there should be a full enquiry and a formal inspection. The official view was that the provost (who, despite being Irish had served as a boy soldier in Northern Ireland) had sympathy with the Irish political movement and had simply let Kinsella out.

The C.O., the Company Commander, the Duty Officer, the R.S.M., the C.S.M. and the provost sergeant inspected the cell yard and were considering their verdict. The provost, seeing that matters were not going well for him, suggested Kinsella be brought from the cells to explain. Kinsella simply said that he had climbed over the wall and escaped.

The R.S.M. clearly thought Kinsella was lying and requested him to explain further. Kinsella said that at the time it had been raining hard and that he had been turned out to exercise himself wearing his groundsheet. Could he please be given a groundsheet? A standard army groundsheet was produced and Kinsella demonstrated how he had hooked the end of the groundsheet onto the glass topped wall and climbed up the groundsheet. Everyone was very impressed with the demonstration and the C.O. asked the provost to bring Kinsella back.

But in the intensity of the inspection the provost sergeant had not put anyone on guard outside the exercise yard and Kinsella had disappeared for the second time!

He was never seen again.

Although rumour was rife about the incident, the outcome of the enquiry was never published and Kinsella not heard of again till many years after when he had become a well known Republican political activist.

Over the years several times I heard Sean's soft southern Ireland accent on the TV and I smiled to think of the embarrassment he had caused.


My shooting in Assam used to be confined to duck, jungle fowl and green pidgon. Shooting tigers and leopards I disagreed with as they were in any event a fast declining species and shooting ‘big game' on foot was decidedly dangerous. To be a bystander when a pig charged through heavy undergrowth was an experience not to be repeated.

Jungle camps varied from the near opulent to very crude. Ideally one camped near running water and away from mosquitoes. Duck shooting camps tended to be the most basic usually relying on cuguri and jungle bamboo. The requisite number of bottles of rum: (half a bottle/head/day) was an essential part of camping.

It has always been my habit and practice to find remote stretches of river to fish. Pancheswar/Sarju junction is a confluence on the Kali River that gets over-crowded with Delhi would-be anglers and thus an area I generally avoid like the plague. Instead I tend to go off by myself as far as the first village fishing on the left bank of the river. At the village with the aid of a pig's bladder fastened by bamboo rope to either side of the river to mango trees one was to encourage to "ford the river". All went well and after a cup of chai with the ferry man I was soon en route for the main Sarju/Ramganga junction.

Another hazard fixed in my mind was some 100 yards of loose scree reaching some 500' up the side of the Sarju valley upstream of the Pancheswar junction. To trek round it would have taken the rest of the day:

I was about half way over the scree when the whole hillside started to slide into the river. Initially as I crossed the scree the debris was small but before I reached the other side it was clear the whole scree was moving. How I managed not to get swept into the river I shall never know. Next that I did know was that I was being hauled out of the river by the ferryman and a villager. The rubble had left my knees and elbows raw and painful. After another cup of tea I swam the river again and, rather shakily at first, walked back to Pancheswar ghat.

Another well known angling venue is Vyasghat below Deva Pryag which again tends to get overcrowded with Delhi anglers. On one particular occasion the fishing was poor and its absence was made up for by hitting the rum bottle till the late hours. No fish but fishing stories a plenty. Eventually every one dragged themselves off to their tent which gave way to a chorus of snoring. We retired in bright moonlight. Before long I interrupted my sleep for a pee and wandered away from the camp only at which time did I realise the moon had been replaced by thick mist and also that I had left my specs' in the tent. There I stood lungey-clad in the middle of nowhere. I thought that if I waited hoping I might eventually be guided by a slumberous rum-drinker. All in all the plan worked albeitwas surprised to find how far I had wandered in the gloom

All in all I think I must have had some luck, perhaps on reflection; a lot of luck

                                                                                        Roy Church


 October 23 2012

Transport in Assam

Much has been written about the Burma War. The Japanese subjected the British Army to its longest retreat in Britain's military history and civilians had to make an undignified retreat on foot through the near impassable mountains of Northern Burma.

Among the evacuees was American General Stillwell who, having walked out of Burma not only avowed he would return but he would build a motorable road and pipeline to join Assam with the Rangoon - China Road.

The road received varying support, Slim and Alexander were decidedly luke warm but the Chinese who were reliant on American military supplies were keen to establish the link. Stillwell also had long term plans to retake Northern Burma with American irregular troops known as Merril's Maurauders together with Chinese whose training in India Stillwell had supervised.

When the end of the war came American and American forces were

quick to leave for their American homeland and the Chinese 6th Army

virtually fought their way home from Central Burma.

The Americans had huge stocks of weapons not to mention ‘dromes all over Assam from which the Americans had flown equipment "Over the hump" to the Chinese.

The political status of Burma remained uncertain and as soon as British, American and Chinese troops were repatriated the Indian Army sealed the border at Pangsue Pass. The jungle very quickly retook the line of the road and the road effectively disappeared. In theory it was possible to get a pass but in reality no one to my knowledge ever succeeded apart from an Oxford and Cambridge overland expedition from London to Singapore and two members of the Malayan Police who tackled the trip in the opposite direction. Bridges had been washed away and much of the time was spent in winching vehicles through the rivers. Where this was not possible rafts had to suffice. These expeditions more or less brought travel down the Stillwell to a halt. In 1950 some lunatic on a motorbike managed to get through. Planters managed occasionally to fish some of the rivers below Pang Sue, There were no passes issued, it was all done through personal contact with members of the Indian Amy. To this day the Ledo road remains closed to foreigners.

In their rush to go home the Americans simply abandoned all the equipment they had stockpiled for war. Numerous C-47 Dakotas and at Ledo numbers of sealed Nissen huts, mostly full of engineering/road building equipment which over time were disposed of by public auction.

In the mid 50's the Indian Government finally auctioned the ex-American equipment. The auction was rather unusually run. Each Nissen hut was absolutely crammed full of kit, there was no invoice of what the huts contained. Swynn Dyer my burra sahib gave me a hefty wad of cash and instructed me to go and buy some cotton waste. I bid for a hut that appeared to be full of cotton waste but after the sale as we loaded up the Tippuk 3 tonner we found that it was mostly hand tools. There was a big black painted box in the corner of the hut which on close inspection turned out to be a Model T Ford which, had never, as far as we could tell, been assembled. We did a deal with a motoring enthusiast from Shillong who was on the lookout for American saloons but I never saw the Model T again. Swynn was typically nonplussed about the incident and said that we would never have got an export licence for the vehicle.

The Stillwell Road was almost impassable to anything less rugged than a GMC 6 X 6. Timber was being abstracted from the hills and a 6 X 6 was the only vehicle which could cope with the massive loads  often 30' long and upto 12' girth.

It would do today's Health and Safety Officers a power of good to see the timber waggon jagalies felling and removing timber in what can only be described as  dense cover often well over 100' high. Their sole tools were axes and crowbars. As evidenced by the often twisted chassis of the wagons the butts regularly dropped the smaller buts straight on the trailer, bigger butts they crowbarred on to the trailer with the aid of wedges. Accidents were frequent and often serious as well as broken down timber waggons blocking jungle tracks.

Heavily loaded timber waggons also presented a problem on the "open road". I should add that almost all of the Assam highway system in the 1950's was single track, the only way one could pass a timber waggon was that one party had to dismount from the pukka road which was often a pretty hazardous task for an overloaded timber waggon.

Timber waggons on the highway at night were a particular problem. When extracting butts of timber in the jungle it was fairly common that one, other or both headlights got knocked off. This called for some skilful driving as it was often not possible to tell on which side of the road any approaching waggon was. The situation was made more fraught by the fact that the train also ran beside the highway and this too only had a single light.

Much of the daylight timber traffic was bound for sawmills where the timber was made into ply and into tea chests.

Once a timber waggon had reached full speed on the pukka portion of the road the waggon drivers were very reluctant to let other vehicles pass (both brakes and clutch tended to be less that roadworthy). It was often necessary to travel several miles behind timber waggons.

Fortunately the jagalis who loaded the waggon with the butts travelled atop the load clinging perilously to various ropes tied to secure the load. Under the waggon chassis several baulks of heavy timber (used to load and unload the timber) ran the length of the lorry. The front of these baulks of timber were wedged under the waggon driver's seat.

To overtake it was first necessary to attract the attention of the jagalis. With all the noise from a beaten up gearbox this was easier said than done and might require several miles of non-stop horn blowing from the following vehicle. Eventually two or three of the jagalis would jump up and down vigorously on to the baulks of timber which protruded from the rear of the chassis and the driver's seat would be propelled towards the cab roof which encouraged him to pull off the road!

When I returned to Assam in 1965 the 6 x 6's had disappeared, replaced by modern Tata lorries. Sadly, in the interim 27 years much of the timber had been clear felled.

Roy Church.

.August 17 2012

                    WEEKEND TRIP

It was late spring, the tea was showing signs of growth and the local rivers filled although not as yet full with muddy water as they would soon become. Assistants prepared themselves for their spell in the garden and factory assistants for their long hard slog in the factory. A group of us in Doom Dooma club looked upon the prospect and bemoaned the fact that there would be only limited fishing till the river's cleared in October/November.

Myself, Peter Wilson, "J.V." and Dick Scott resolved that we would make a final "lightweight" assault on the Dhebong, the general  principle being that we would each take as little kit as possible and "live off the land" There was an Island above the 1st rapid on the

Dhebong which has been used extensively by numerous anglers during the winter which comprised a very basic "cugri" basha; tents would not be needed.

The only arrangements which were made was that each should bring only such food as they felt necessary for a one night stand, fishing kit, JV and Pete Wilson shotguns and me a large ‘degshi' full of a mixture of ‘kedgeree', chowl and lentil together with a large bundle of chappatis swathed in a copy of The Assam Tribune. Peter took his 15 h.p. outboard and JV while JV came with me. We headed for Dheopani  Mukh and, as usual, we broke a number of shear pins  though the sandbars getting though the Dhebong Mukh (I noted; not as many as Dick and Peter who appeared to have given up sharing any communication). Even from a distance it was plain that fulfilling his job as crew Dick had managed to get wet to his breast pocket. Dick was a reluctant swimmer at the best of times.

Without undue problems both boats were soon moored at Dheopani and after only a short time Peter had landed a mahseer. It was quite eatable and Peter announced he had brought a frying pan and some Dalda (cooking fat) for such eventuality and he proclaimed himself chief cook. So there was going to be an alternative to Kedgeree!

No more fish so we headed upstream to the basha site. Pete soon had the fire lit albeit being a close run matter as to whether the basha was burned down in the process. Dick and JV stationed themselves upstream amid high cugri surrounding the basha assuring us that there would be numerous evening flights of teal which we could barbeque. Sounds of gunfire soon indicated that JV was busy while Dick was not. Before long a rather disconsolate Dick plodded through the gathering darkness rather dejectedly carrying a pair of teal. When I pointed out the number of shots Dick had fired off Dick explained that the majority of birds were merganza which were hard to pluck and dress and almost inedible to even the locals at Dheopani . Despite this situation JV appeared loaded with merganza muttering that if the locals could eat them he could [At this stage I recommend the reader transfer to Dick's narrative.]

Peter was gutting the mahseer and was removing the bones with a pair of pliars from the fish by the light of a Petromax from which a flame  shot alarmingly up towards the cugri basha roof. I volunteered to serve the rum. The choice being rum straight, rum and cold water, rum and hot water, rum, hot water and sugar. Dick was sitting in the half darkness away from the fire plucking and dressing a pair of teal where he made it clear that HE would eat the teal which was obviously not going to make much of a meal. Dick's only other contribution was several rather sticky "Mutton" boiled sweets. In the 50's and 60's bars of chocolate were yet to appear. Closer inspection of Dick's dining plan revealed that after feasting on the ducks he would stick to ‘pudding' of Nestle Condensed Milk 50/50 with rum. Dick had several tubes of condensed milk secreted about his person, indeed that appeared to be all he had decided to bring with in on his lightening trip although we did manage one communal "Nezzer's Quafe"

From time to time Wilson displayed his fillit'ing/frying skills until the Petromax suddenly gave up the fight. Peter and I shared a somewhat sandy fillet While Dick and JV cooked on in complete darkness.

The rum was going down fast and before long Dick was talking to himself. JV quietly gave up the unequal struggle with the merganza and was giving the kedgeree a trial run.

On my "Morning Walk" there were several "abandoned" merganza half cooked and providing a bonus to the early morning flies. You could tell where Dick had sat by the number of empty Nescafe tubes. Wilson having had to take more than his usual dose of rum to cope with the strains of being cook was particularly difficult to wake from his charpoy in the basha. No one had or intended to shave and by the time we arrived back at Dholla Ghat we looked a pretty desperate lot.
Roy Church